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My weight fluctuates around the weekend. How can I stay in control?

The question

I always seem to gain two pounds on the weekend, then lose them during the week. Any tips to help me better manage my food intake on weekends?

The answer

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It's easy for extra calories to sneak in on the weekend. Family get-togethers, cottage weekends and backyard barbecues can steer you off your healthy eating plan by tempting you with cocktails, hors d'oeuvres, larger meals and dessert. Without the structure of the workweek, many people relax their diet Friday night through Sunday.

The end result could be more than an extra two pounds. One study found that regularly overeating on the weekend could lead to a nine-pound weight gain by the end of the year. People enrolled in the study consistently gained weight on weekends and while some of that weight was lost during the week, not all of it was.

If you're trying to shed excess pounds – or keep the scale steady – you need to maintain a certain level of discipline seven days a week. Rethink your weekend eating habits to determine what your pitfalls are. Here are a few suggestions to help rein in your weekend food intake.

  • Plan ahead. If you find it challenging to eat regular meals on busy weekends, use a food diary to plan your menu. Write out, in advance, what you’re going to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks on Saturday and Sunday. This strategy has helped many of my clients.
  • If you’re going to be running errands all day, pack healthy snacks to prevent hunger. Or plan to stop at a coffee shop to buy a latte for a mid day snack.
  • Watch portion sizes. It’s easy for portion sizes to creep up when you’re relaxing. Fill your plate with green salad, fresh vegetables and whole grains first to help curb your appetite. If still feel like you could eat more after finishing a meal, drink a glass of water or eat a piece of fruit.
  • Limit alcohol. A before dinner cocktail (or two) and a few handfuls of nuts (or pieces of cheese) can easily add up to 500 calories. Plus, alcohol weakens your resolve to watch what you eat. Cutting out two drinks on the weekend will save you 200 to 300 calories. If a pre-dinner drink is part of your routine, consider having it with your meal to save calories.
  • Allow yourself a treat. Plan to enjoy a treat or two on the weekend and then ignore the rest. So you don’t feel deprived, reward yourself with something you really enjoy rather than giving in to standard fare you can have any time (e.g. chips, cookies). Make the most of your extra calories.
  • Weigh-in on Monday. You’re less likely to overeat on the weekend if you have to step on the scale on Monday morning. Consider weighing yourself twice a week – Mondays and Fridays – to catch small weight changes before they accumulate.
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